When we posted Monday, October 6th on the mysterious blast at the Parchin military explosives test site in Iran , we said our first act was to contact the Washington, DC-based Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) headed by former nuclear inspector, David Albright. ISIS, a highly regarded nuclear watchdog group, maintains watching briefs on both the Iranian and North Korean nuclear programs.
The young man who answered our call said they would have an evaluation of imagery of the Parchin test site, alleged to be engaged in development of explosive nuclear triggers for possible weapons development. The Parchin military test facility is located 28 kilometers southeast of Tehran. The blast there occurred on Sunday night local time. It produced a glare that could be seen 13 kilometers (approximately 10 miles) distant, as well as blew out windows. The Iranian regime’s IRNA and opposition Samha news agencies reported on the blast at Parchin that killed two workers. ISIS released evidence yesterday of damage at the Parchin test site based on satellite imagery, “Finding the Site of the Alleged Explosion at the Parchin Military Complex”. Their analysis found:
After analyzing the sections of the Parchin military complex visible in satellite imagery, ISIS believes that one site located in the southern section of the complex could be the possible location of the explosion. This site is close to a series of bunkers, indicating that it could serve as a support area for the activities taking place there. Several signatures that coincide with those expected from an explosion site are visible here. Two buildings that were present in August 2014 are no longer there, while a third building appears to be severely damaged. In total at least six buildings appear damaged or destroyed. Several trucks are present at the site. The shape and size of these trucks is consistent with those of either fire or debris removal trucks. The irregular line and color of the vegetation seems to indicate that some unexpected activity took place (possibly a fire, explosion, scattering of debris etc.). Finally, grey debris is visible at the center of the potential explosion area and is also scattered into the surrounding vegetation.
Earlier today, it has been reported that the imagery shows that the damage is consistent with an attack against bunkers and that the locality is adjacent to another installation where work was being conducted that involves controlled detonation of fuses intended to serve as triggers for nuclear devices.
However, it is important to note that there is no evidence of either an attack or nuclear weapon-related activities at this specific site. There may be confusion over alleged high explosive nuclear weapon-related activities at another site at Parchin that occurred prior to 2004 (see figure 1 on the right).
Given the ISIS analysis, the question of whether the Parchin explosion was sabotage or a test failure is still open. Sources, we have consulted with suggested it might be the former. While the Washington ISIS has been monitoring activity at Parchin, the facility has been closed to IAEA inspections since 2005.
Three years ago, we posted on another massive explosion at a missile propellant test center near Tehran in mid November, 2011, “Iranian Missile Test Site Explosion May Disable Solid Fuel ICMB Program – a Threat Played Down by the Obama Administration”. We noted:
Along with Gen. Hassan Tehrani Moghaddam the head of Iran’s missile test program and 17 other Iranians killed in the ‘accident’ there have been reportsthat a number of North Koreans present at the test facility were killed as well. That is analogous to the IAF 2007 raid on the Syrian nuclear bomb factory when there was documented evidence of North Korean technicians present at the destroyed site.
The implication of the ‘accident’ is that the NIE May 2009 estimate of Iran’s ICBM capabilities was wrong, as experts cited in our report on The Iranian Missile Threat. That report was used to justify that the Administration’s Missile Defense Shield program that only covered southeastern Europe. Strategically it means that the range of these solid fuel rockets, especially the MB-25 variant being developed by Iran, threatened targets in EU from the UK through Central and Eastern Europe, as well as, Russia.
According to a Reuters report on the ISIS analysis of the blast at Parchin, the IAEA has been denied access to Parchin by Iran on the grounds that it is a “conventional military facility”. It further noted that Iran said the November 2011 missile test site blast occurred while the “weapons were being moved”.
With questions raised about the pending final agreement proposals under discussion in Vienna between representatives of the P5+1 and Iran, the Parchin military test site blast begs disclosures on what triggered it. Why Iran has denied access to the facility to the IAEA since 2005? It is time for the Senate and House Select Intelligence Committees to hold closed door hearings on Iran’s nuclear activities during the year long interim agreement. An agreement that gave the green light for lifting some US and International sanctions. Perhaps, Israel has information on both the incident at Parchin and Iran’s nuclear program. Yuval Steinitz, Israeli Minister of Intelligence , revealed before President Rouhani’s speech at the UN General Assembly in September 2014 that he had such information from “reliable sources”.
EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.